World Cup Diary Pt.2: The playoffs ahead
As the group stage is leaning towards its end, it is time for the second edition of our World Cup diary. This time around U.S.-Supporter Derek puts the focus on the terrible refereeing, his team has had to cope with so far and Matty from England presents his hopes and dreams for sunday, which of course will inevitably be squashed by the bogey team from Germany. Because the golden rule, introduced by the great English philosopher Gary Lineker is still undisputed: "Football is a game for 22 people that run around, play the ball, and one referee who makes a slew of mistakes, and in the end Germany always wins." So us Germans can look forward to the weekend with good confidence and maybe we should even be grateful for avoiding the U.S.A., because they showed a great team effort in South Africa so far.The German outlook on the classic ahead is taken by our Steph. But first let´s take a look, what our international experts have to say.
Derek from the U.S.A. (22.06.2010)
I didn't want to start my entry this way, but I can't pretend I'm particularly surprised, either: the US has once again been on the short end of a terrible, bewildering decision by a FIFA official. I refer, of course, to the indefensible disallowance of a goal by Maurice Edu of the United States against Slovenia that would have completed an historic comeback from two goals down at the half, and likely would have given the United States a precious three points toward qualification for the knockout rounds -- equally historic for a country in which "football" connotes plastic helmets adorned with cartoon marine life.
Presumably, anyone closely following the tournament is familiar with the call. Having siezed momentum and tied the score on impressive second half goals by Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley (of the Other Borussia), the Americans were awarded a free kick after a foul on forward Jozy Altidore near the Slovenian goal. Donovan struck a well-placed ball in, and Maurice Edu emerged from the scrum and punctured the goal -- 3-2 United States. . . .
. . . But it was not to be. The referee, Koman Coulibaly of Mali, who had to that point allowed a significant amount of contact in each penalty area, whistled off the goal for a foul. Instantly, broadcasts went to the replay to identify the infraction . . . and therein lies the mystery: only the most partisan FIFA apologist, opposing fan, or fraternal official could find anything resembling a foul by any American, anywhere. (Potentially an American fan tipped over a Slovenian's beer somewhere in the upper levels of the stadium. It's as good an explanation as any, and it would have to be a really good beer.) Clint Dempsey and Carlos Bocanegra made contact with opponents, but it was nothing that any other official would have called a foul at any point in any match, and certainly nothing Coulibaly had been calling a foul as of a few minutes earlier. Adding insult to injury, replays showed "bear hugs" by Slovenian defenders. At the very least, if anything, given that the whistle had blown, the Americans should have been awarded a penalty. And it is worth keeping in mind what those Slovenian "fouls" reveal: The Slovenians are not stupid -- the only reason they would risk so blatantly obstructing the Americans in the area is because they knew how Coulibaly had been calling the game to that point -- loosely, if inconsistently.
Truly a shame, given the exciting soccer that preceded it -- a nailbiting finish that saw the Americans dig deep and overwhelm a side renowned for a stingy defense. Both goalscorers were standouts throughout -- Donovan and Bradley showed that they can compete on the highest level and under pressure. Altidore, Edu and Herculez Gomez, the final sub, also played well. Unfortunately, the stars of the England game were either relatively unnoticed (Dempsey, though it wasn't his fault) or strugged (Onyewu). In the first half, poor positioning by Onyewu was involved in both scores. Jose Francisco Torres, a hope for the future, was dreadful in the present (mercifully substituted at the half.) Striker Robbie Findley -- also the recipient of a ridiculous phantom yellow card -- played indecisively and was substituted at the half. Not their best days, but all will contribute to the team in the future -- be it tomorrow or in qualifying for 2014.
Nor do the Slovenians deserve to be remembered for eking out a draw by luck and avoiding a loss on a bad call. Strange as it sounds, a decision that gifted them a point robbed them of an opportunity to perhaps tie the game through merit in the final minutes, and overshadows their outstanding first half showing -- a clinic of precision and inspired soccer that had the US reeling and on the verge of certain elimination from the tournament. Valter Birsa was magnificent, and the Novakovic as dangerous as his bizarre Factory Records haircut. They will be a tough match for an embattled England side.
Fans are accustomed to (and tired of) reading gripes from other fans who think they were "robbed." There is a temptation to shut up and do what the players must, in preparation for the next game -- set it aside and think solely about those factors the players can control. But that this call was unremarkable in its utter arbitrariness is perhaps the strongest argument for addressing it and addressing it loudly. Not simply the United States' match, but the entire second slate of games was mangled and defaced by horrible officiating throughout. Switzerland, Brazil, Germany, and Australia all received unwarranted red cards that rob players and teams of once-in-lifetime experiences and completely warp the ensuing course of the game. The Socceroos were victims twice in two matches. Real handballs have been missed and phantom handballs awarded -- and all with the likes of Coulibaly officiating and demonstrably better, more seasoned officials staying home. To avoid the appearance of sham results awarded by fiat, FIFA needs accountability, transparency, meritocracy, and, yes, the assistance of technology.
The poor call has received a great deal of attention in the United States (as anywhere, the media flock to any controversy) to the point where some (including Landon Donovan) have speculated that the attention may "raise the profile" of soccer in the United States. That may be true to a point, but only if those whose curiosities have been piqued are kept interested by strong performances by our team.
On that score, a word about Algeria, our next opponent. This is a difficult, mercurial foe for the United States. They do not play with the organization and regularity of Slovenia, but at their best, they can beat any team in the world, and they drove England to the brink. If the US continues its habit of falling behind early in matches, there may be no way out. If they begin with the determination they showed in the second half Friday, however, they stand an excellent chance of advancing.
And, lastly, a word about that ball from Lucas -- wow.
Matty from England (24.06.2010)
I will pin my cards to the chest immediately and I am confident that England will end the dreams of Germany in Sunday’s last 16 clash at the World Cup. I am not now banging the drum like the majority of my home nation that feel we will now go and win the tournament, after a somewhat scrappy win over a Slovenia side, who seemed quite content to sit back and go through with a defeat, but I feel that we have the side to beat Germany who I feel were overly praised after their initial victory over Australia.
The game will be won and lost in the midfield and Steven Gerrard has performed well in all of England’s matches and the site of Bastian Schweinsteiger having his leg strapped must have brought a wry smile to Fabio’s face as his game would be to stifle England as they go forward and release Merzit Ozil to cause problems, but England should now be able to counteract that by packing the midfield and hitting the Germans on the break. Though England are not the quickest of sides and can be quite cumbersome at times, this should play into their hands and also allow Wayne Rooney to be more dangerous in attack as he can exploit the space. Another reason I fancy that the ghosts of tournaments past (I am expecting plenty of reruns of 1966. and countless interviews with Sir Geoff Hurst and Michael Owen before Sunday on the BBC) be lifted is the site of Prince Poldi and Miroslav Klose leading the attack, I am well aware that their records in international football is second to none but they will come up against an England defence is pretty miserly at times and John Terry should be able to handle Klose on the ground and in the air if Jogi decides to use the kick and rush tactics that England do so well!
The game as you would expect has brought out many xenophobic views from the notorious English press and frankly it will get worse as we head towards Sunday’s kick off when the whole nation will stop and watch the game. I am hoping for a great game and for it not to go the dreaded penalties, as I want neither side to have an excuse for defeat. I have decided to watch the match wearing my BVB shirt as respect to my German friends who we have made and are the polar opposite to what the press will spiel about their nation, and will toast my drink to them throughout those nervous 90 minutes. Though I apologise now for constant abuse of Neuer in revenge for his actions he gave the Sud after the derby defeat in September.
Enjoy the game and think of your friends in Dover who would have much preferred for our nations to have met in the final, for 90 minutes we may be enemies but forever we will always be Schwatz-Gelb.
Steph of sg.com from Dortmund, Germany (25.06.2010)
Italy out, France out, New Zealand flies home undefeated but ahead of Italy, Ghana advance and the group stages end today. Does anybody care about this here in Germany? I doubt it. The whole nation is waiting for teatime on Sunday when, after 20 years, we finally face our old rivals again. Of course, we beat them on penalties in Euro 96, humiliated them first when scoring the last goal in Wembley and then last year in the U21 Final. “We call it a Klassiker”, says not only Der Kaiser about the match Germany vs England, the match I believe World Cup was invented for in the first place. Everywhere you go, to everyone you speak be it in person or on the phone, there is only one topic: Germany vs England. All of them, if old enough, still recall that summer day in Turin in 1990, they’d tell you about the tears of a clown, about Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle, about Gary Lineker and Terry Butcher, they remember the last English goalie that was any good. And they remember what they did that day.
And now we get ready for Sunday, twenty years after Turin, 44 years after Wembley, 40 after Mexico and 28 after Spain. It is only the fifth time we meet in a World Cup. All of the matches ended with a draw after 90 minutes, three of them went into extra time, and Germany lost one, won one and started the penalty trauma in 1990. But those were different times. Even the tabloids have been quiet; World War II seems to be forgotten by most of them. These days the Nationalmannschaft fields players from different ethnic backgrounds. You have the young Turks Özil and Tasci, the Tunisian Khedira, the Polish boys Klose, Trochowski and Podolski, the Bosnian Marin, the Gelsenkirchen born Neuer, Boateng from Ghana and Aogo from Nigeria, Spanish boy Gomez. All of them earn their Euros in Bundesliga football, none of them playing abroad, making the German team the only team to still be in World Cup with only players playing in their home league – but one: The other team being the English. So it is also Bundesliga vs EPL. Interesting times, indeed! Who will prevail?
But even those facts will be forgotten, when the Golden English generation await another defeat on that Sunday in June 2010. They will be outplayed by a young German team, which, after the fantastic 4-0 Australia, is a promise for the future. But can the young team beat experience? It does seem possible, England look saturated, Rooney snot fit, Terry rebellious, Lampard and Gerrard arrogant and David James is yet another English goalie. The question will be can we keep the game away from Mertesacker and whoever plays left back? Do we care? We care! Of course, those Taliban football fans that complain about the rest of the nation looking forward to the match, and celebrating after the win, root for England. But why should we? There is no reason at all.
Bring on teatime, bring on the English. For once the friendship with our English friends will rest but we will be sure to get on the phone after the match, discuss why Terry missed his penalty and wait for the Europa League draw, which hopefully sees us travel to England to present our colors – and they will always be black and yellow – in Britain. Until then we know their goalie is shit, their former captain shags some ugly girl and it’s gonna be one all to Germany, we will win on penalties
That sums up our second edition of the World Cup Diary. We will be back next week when the first elimination matches have been played. The guest authors express their own opinions, which must not necessarily represent the view of the editors of schwatzgelb.com.